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March 8th, 2009
07:05 AM ET

Dear President Obama #48: Barbie, Dora and the fate of America

Reporter's Note: President Barack Obama says Americans should help him with ideas to make our country a better place to live. I think more picnic tables would be a good start, but beyond that I am writing a letter a day to the White House.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I went to see my elder daughter in a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream tonight, and it was fabulous! I don’t know if you are into that kind of thing, but I think you would have enjoyed it, and now that I think about it I should have called you. Sorry about that. That’s one I owe you.

You are the father of daughters, and so am I. We worry about their education, their social world, and whether they have used up all the hot water. Which, btw, strikes me as very funny: you running through the White House living quarters in a towel yelling, “Malia! How long were you in that shower?”

So I’m writing today about a couple of other young women who seem to have people convinced they are on a road to ruin: Barbie and Dora. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories. Barbie has come out in a new tattoo version, complete with tattoo gun. And Dora the cute little explorer is moving to the city, working on her abs, and reinventing herself as stylin’ tween Dora. Parents (well, at least some of them) are unhappy. They say both new versions are sending the wrong message to young women about sexuality, body type, and what is cool.

I don’t get particularly worked up about such things. In the case of Barbie, I just think tattoos are a bad idea to begin with. I always say to people considering them, “OK, first go pick out a pair of socks you want to wear for the rest of your life. If you can’t, it’s probably best to rethink that idea of stenciling Marvin Martian on your butt.” On the other hand it is a personal choice, and if Barbie wants to slap on some Ken is the King body art, who am I to stop her? Now, if they went straight to Cell Block Barbie, complete with a banner of “live free or die” inked across her breasts, perhaps I’d be more concerned.

Dora? I’ve never paid much attention to her. As best I can make out she’s just like a sweet kid with frighteningly huge eyes who sells backpacks to gradeschoolers. Mattel says she’s not going to be “all sexed up” as some parents fear; she’s just going to be a little older, slimmed down, and involved in somewhat more grown-up adventures. Hmmm. Now that I write it down, that does sound a little suspicious. I had a cousin who did the same thing, and now…well, I don’t want to talk about it.

I suppose we could organize some sort of molded plastic intervention. Get Woody and Buzz, GI Joe, and some of the Peanuts Gang to talk to the young ladies about making smart choices. “You won’t be new plastic forever. One day when you are dried out, faded, and cracking up in the attic, you’ll look back and wish you had done things differently!”

Anyway, I don’t think the sky is going to fall over this. Sure, we can have a talk about our values as a culture, and that is important, but let’s hold it for later. For now, I’ll just say growing up in America today as a young woman is tres tough, and it does not get any easier when major corporations are furiously trying sell the idea that cool people count more than everyone else, just so they can sell more toys to children.

Hope all is well. Ring me up if you have the time.

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Gloria, Brooklyn, NY

    When children are taught how to think for themselves, they are less likely to be so easily influence.

    March 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
  2. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    As a kid, I think I had just about every popular doll out there. Barbie never influenced me to be an airline pilot or a go-go dancer. I don't date plastic looking guys just because I had a Ken doll. Donnie and Marie and Charlie's Angels (in their action figure forms) never made me want to be singers or adventure seeking detectives working for a guy on an intercom. Rub-a-Dub Dolly never gave me a bath fetish. And Baby Alive never made me have a need to have octuplets just to try the real thing. This idea that toys influence kids in evil ways is simply insane. Toys are for play. That is all.
    Real parenting by active, involved parents kept me from getting tattooed, knocked up, or using drugs. Going to church with my parents and praying as a family every day kept me on the right track. Going to a private school that taught values and academics instead of testing made all the difference in who I became and what I did. Geez. Barbie is 50. Quite honestly, if she can pull off wearing a tattoo and looking that good in plastic at her age, more power to her. And just so long as Boots doesn't become homicidal as a more grown-up monkey, Dora and her buddies deserve the chance to be 'tweens in all their confused hormonal glory. Parents have survived little girls growing up before. They will again.

    March 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  3. Betty Hood

    Oh, can I work for you??? I love your writing.

    P.S. I have a tattoo!

    March 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  4. Kim

    We need to get back to the orginal Barbee and she had class. It was cool when they designed her knees to bend. Skipper was cute and Midge was a hoot. Then they came out with sun tan Ken and he was the cat's meow. Some states are trying to ban Barbee these day's ? Those orginal cracks in the attic are worth a $1000.00 and up to antique dealer's. If you haven't cut her hair off into a punk rock style and dyed green. Millions of kids are using their creative energy wisely,what's your excuse ? The Repulicans with Rush,"Enough !"

    March 8, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  5. Isabel, Brazil

    Good morning! :)

    Today is International Women's Day. It's a day commemorating for the celebration of the achievements in economic, political and social achieved by women.
    Is Barbie and Dora knows what that means? Lol ...

    The schools don't teach kids on important issues such as: use of biodegradable materials, water depletion, energy depletion, greenhouse effect and its future consequences (in the very near future). The government also does make little about it, then it is up to parents and the press do it.

    Interesting concerns in your letter today!

    March 8, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  6. Marlene Linke

    Oh, the challenges poor Malia and Sasha will face! To Barbie or not to Barbie that is the question! The prez and the misses have such class and style so I don't think we'll see the girls going all gangsta blinged out with diamond studded grillz, wearing hoochie mama shorts and wife beaters that say "boy toy". I really believe we can rest assured that the insidious influence of Mz. B will not infiltrate the hallowed halls of the White House. Loved your blog!

    March 8, 2009 at 10:05 am |